Lawmakers want California to benefit more from atmospheric rivers

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As California remains in a state of emergency for both flood and drought, elected officials at the state Capitol are working on how to avoid this dual state of emergency situation in the future. Related | Full storm coverage hereLawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree: The state needs to update its water systems and boost California’s ability to capture and store water to alleviate the effects of drought, especially when major storms or atmospheric rivers dump rain. Updating the state’s water systems may be one of the few pushes this year when Democrats and Republicans work together. Here is a look at the proposals. Assembly Bill 62 – Statewide water storage expansionWeeks before the series of atmospheric rivers began hitting the state, Assm. Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, filed a proposal that sets statewide targets to increase above and below-ground water storage capacity by a total of 3.7 million acre-feet by 2030, to eventually reach the goal of 4 million acre-feet by 2040. “Let’s get this storage done; let’s get it built,” said Mathis, who noted the numbers are based on a water strategy plan Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced last summer. The governor warned the state could lose 10% of its water supply by 2040. Mathis said his bill aims to hold the governor to his word. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said he does not generally comment on pending legislation. AB 62 would also require the state water board and the Department of Water Resources to design and implement measures to increase statewide water storage to achieve the 2030 and 2040 targets. It would also require the administration to submit progress reports to the Legislature starting in 2027. AB 30- Atmospheric Rivers Research and Forecast ImprovementAssm. Chris Ward, D-San Diego, introduced this bill to optimize water supply and flood prevention with new technology. The bill would require the Department of Water Resources to research, develop and use new observations, prediction models and forecasting methods to improve predictions of atmospheric rivers. The bill also aims to improve predictions of an atmospheric river’s impacts on water supply, flooding, post-wildfire debris flows and environmental conditions.AB 30 would also require DWR to take all actions within its existing authority to operate reservoirs in a way that improves flood protection and to reoperate flood control and water storage facilities to capture water generated by atmospheric rivers. Ward notes the system hasn’t had improvements in nearly 20 years. Mathis said he looks forward to potentially working with Ward on the issue. AB 30 and AB 62 likely won’t be the only pieces of legislation filed to address the state’s water infrastructure. State lawmakers have until mid-February to introduce new bills. Newsom’s Administration effortsThe governor and state lawmakers agreed to earmark more than $8 billion over the last three years for water infrastructure improvements and response to drought. Newsom said the investments include improvements to conveyance, stormwater capture strategies, groundwater replenishment and strategies to capture flood flow during strong storms the state has been experiencing since the start of the year. The state is leveraging new technology to study atmospheric rivers to help prepare and respond to major storms. The governor said Sunday a C130 aircraft was flying around the latest system to collect data. “They are bringing back information that even a year ago, we wouldn’t have had or been privy to, even with all of the fancy satellite technology and all of the federal resources that we’ve been provided and provided ourselves had we not invested in these technologies,” Newsom said.

As California remains in a state of emergency for both flood and drought, elected officials at the state Capitol are working on how to avoid this dual state of emergency situation in the future.

Related | Full storm coverage here

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree: The state needs to update its water systems and boost California’s ability to capture and store water to alleviate the effects of drought, especially when major storms or atmospheric rivers dump rain.

Updating the state’s water systems may be one of the few pushes this year when Democrats and Republicans work together. Here is a look at the proposals.

Assembly Bill 62 – Statewide water storage expansion

Weeks before the series of atmospheric rivers began hitting the state, Assm. Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, filed a proposal that sets statewide targets to increase above and below-ground water storage capacity by a total of 3.7 million acre-feet by 2030, to eventually reach the goal of 4 million acre-feet by 2040.

“Let’s get this storage done; let’s get it built,” said Mathis, who noted the numbers are based on a water strategy plan Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced last summer.

The governor warned the state could lose 10% of its water supply by 2040.

Mathis said his bill aims to hold the governor to his word. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said he does not generally comment on pending legislation.

AB 62 would also require the state water board and the Department of Water Resources to design and implement measures to increase statewide water storage to achieve the 2030 and 2040 targets. It would also require the administration to submit progress reports to the Legislature starting in 2027.

AB 30- Atmospheric Rivers Research and Forecast Improvement

Assm. Chris Ward, D-San Diego, introduced this bill to optimize water supply and flood prevention with new technology.

The bill would require the Department of Water Resources to research, develop and use new observations, prediction models and forecasting methods to improve predictions of atmospheric rivers. The bill also aims to improve predictions of an atmospheric river’s impacts on water supply, flooding, post-wildfire debris flows and environmental conditions.

AB 30 would also require DWR to take all actions within its existing authority to operate reservoirs in a way that improves flood protection and to reoperate flood control and water storage facilities to capture water generated by atmospheric rivers. Ward notes the system hasn’t had improvements in nearly 20 years.

Mathis said he looks forward to potentially working with Ward on the issue.

AB 30 and AB 62 likely won’t be the only pieces of legislation filed to address the state’s water infrastructure. State lawmakers have until mid-February to introduce new bills.

Newsom’s Administration efforts

The governor and state lawmakers agreed to earmark more than $8 billion over the last three years for water infrastructure improvements and response to drought.

Newsom said the investments include improvements to conveyance, stormwater capture strategies, groundwater replenishment and strategies to capture flood flow during strong storms the state has been experiencing since the start of the year.

The state is leveraging new technology to study atmospheric rivers to help prepare and respond to major storms. The governor said Sunday a C130 aircraft was flying around the latest system to collect data.

“They are bringing back information that even a year ago, we wouldn’t have had or been privy to, even with all of the fancy satellite technology and all of the federal resources that we’ve been provided and provided ourselves had we not invested in these technologies,” Newsom said.

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